Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A new study finds that up to 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics. (Photo: Andy Thrasher/Flickr/cc)

Found in 90 Percent of Table Salt Brands, Study Finds Average Adult Ingests 2,000 Pieces of Microplastic Per Year

"The more we consume plastics, the more we literally consume plastic."

Julia Conley

A year after researchers at a New York university discovered microplastics present in sea salt thanks to widespread plastic pollution, researchers in South Korea set out to find out how pervasive the problem is—and found that 90 percent of salt brands commonly used in homes around the world contain the tiny pieces of plastic.

The new research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggests that the average adult ingests about 2,000 microplastics per year due to the presence of plastics in the world's oceans and lakes.

"The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region." —Seung-Kyu Kim, Incheon National University

Examining 39 brands sold in 21 countries, researchers at Incheon National University and Greenpeace East Asia found microplastics in 36 of them. The three table salts that did not contain the substance were sold in France, Taiwan, and China—but Asia overall was the site of some of the worst plastic pollution.

The study "shows us that microplastics are ubiquitous," Sherri Mason, who conducted last year's salt study at the State University of New York at Fredonia, told National Geographic. "It's not a matter of if you are buying sea salt in England, you are safe."

Greenpeace East Asia found a strong link between the level of plastic pollution in a given part of the world and the amount of microplastics people in those regions are inadvertently ingesting each year.

"The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region," Seung-Kyu Kim, a co-author of the study, told National Geographic.

Nat Geo Travel put it succinctly on Twitter:

Indonesia, it was found in an unrelated 2015 study, has the world's second-highest level of plastic pollution. The researchers in South Korea discovered that the country's table salt brands also contain the most microplastics.

"That fact that they found higher counts in Asia is interesting. While not surprising, you still have to have the data," Mason said. "The earlier studies found traces of microplastics in salt products sold in those countries, but we haven't known how much."

Erik Solheim, the executive director of the United Nations Environmental Program, called the study "more evidence of the frightening proliferation of plastic pollution"—and expressed hope that studies like this one would encourage more governments and companies around the world to sharply reduce their use of plastics.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·


'This Is on You!' Beto Interrupts Abbott Press Conference on Texas Massacre

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke accused Texas' GOP leaders of "doing nothing and offering us nothing" in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo